Is Yoga for Christians?
It depends on who you ask, so here’s a smattering of different voices:
It’s for everyone regardless of religion. It’s got many levels so you decide how deep to go. It’s New Age. It’s just exercise. It’s worship. It’s a spiritual union with God. It’s a spiritual connection to many gods. It’s about worshipping Shiva. It’s connecting with the good energy in the universe. It makes a person feel great. It’s for all religions. It’s been invaded by Christians who don’t understand it. It enhances spiritual practices. It’s something I do but not what I believe. It’s good for my body. It offers a systematic approach and an abstract approach to meet the varying temperaments of the spirituality hungry.
Let’s read why Hindu Yogi Baba Prem, Vedavisharada, CYI, C.ay, C.va, says it’s definitely not for Christians: “Hinduism should reclaim its full heritage and not allow other groups to rename its sacred teachings under their banner, especially when they have no history of those teaching within their own system. If they wish to ‘borrow’ and say this comes from our brothers and sisters in Hinduism, then that is another thing. But frequently groups attempt to privatize the information and present themselves as the original authority. Hinduism should guard against its sacred traditions becoming distorted and taken away.”
Just so you know, in Hinduism, the god of yoga is Shiva, 1 of 3 supreme beings who created, protects and transforms the universe. He is also known as The Destroyer. Revelation 9:11 identifies The Destroyer, “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).”
Julie Roys, who may be familiar to many as the Christian journalist who wrote the news articles exposing the truth about James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, writes here that trying to incorporate yoga into Christianity is religious syncretism. In this case, syncretism is the joining of Hinduism with Christianity, which ultimately destroys the integrity of Christianity. To do this is to ignore the truth that God insists we worship Him alone.
Julie also says that yoga is another golden calf. “I used to think the Israelites understood the calf as representing a deity other than Yahweh. However, as some scholars note, they likely viewed the calf as a representation of Yahweh. They simply were trying to appropriate the idol worship they had learned in Egypt for worship of the one, true God, whom they barely knew.”
“This seems much like what Christians are doing today with yoga. We are not worshipping God in spirit and truth. Instead, we’re trying to worship Him through an idolatrous practice that emerged from a lie about His nature. But, just like God called the Israelites to be separate from the idolatry surrounding them, He calls us to do the same today.”
John Piper addresses the question of whether or not it’s okay for Christians to do yoga. He lists 7 principles for us to consider. Here is number (7): “So, any physical regimen that begins to take the place of the pursuit of holiness and sacrificial service by which we may lay down our lives is probably starting to become a religion for us. It seems to me that yoga and tai chi have already declared themselves by their very names on that score. They have run up the flag of the Eastern worldview by the very names yoga and tai chi.”
And his summation: “So, for my money at this point, as I assess maximizing rather than minimizing my pursuit of God’s goals and the flourishing of my own soul, I would go another way and find another kind of exercise.”
Giving up something we want and have been justifying isn’t easy. My mind goes to John the Baptist when he states, “… He must become greater; I must become less” John 3:26-30. If the God of the universe is calling me to become less, then why do I think that my needs are greater than His calling to be holy and set apart for Him and so give Him the glory and not me? Is He not able to bless me for giving things up – blessings that bring goodness and joy that far outweigh temporal benefits found in my own futile attempts to meet my perceived needs?
In meeting my own needs, I’m either a) relying on my own self, of which I will eventually reach the limits of my capabilities, or b) relying on something or someone else to help me meet my needs. There is a spiritual power at work in meeting needs. Either it is provision from God, or it is provided through the power He has allowed the prince of this world, Satan, to use at this time. We must choose daily which we will seek out, whom we will serve. Our eternity is based on these small daily choices.
Being holy and set apart comes about through a mysterious transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit as we draw near to Him in all our ways. Salvation is an even more mysterious transformation! We go from sinners with evil hearts doomed to an eternity in hell to redeemed believers called to be holy and set apart, with the Holy Spirit deposited in us—try to wrap your head around that!—with the promise of eternal life in Heaven with God Himself! Wow.
Do you see the mysterious work of God’s invisible power? Do you see the spiritual ramifications of a simple prayer? Of repenting? Of letting go of sin? Who can deny the miracle of a changed heart? Who can deny the power of the Holy Spirit at work bringing truth and light and transforming lives? Further evidence of the Holy Spirit’s invisible work is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.
Alternately, there is a mysterious power at work that is just as invisible that masquerades as light and promises these same fruits. Yes, yoga promises them all as you breathe in its energy and supposedly become one with God – who is not the God of the Bible. Friends, family, do not be deceived into thinking that your form of exercise is harmless and has no real power over you. Invisibly, it is alive and well in each movement, in each breath, in each meditation and chanting of Jesus’ name. Such practices do not make us holy and set apart to God. They do not make us less and Jesus more. I urge you to be holy and be set apart, give up your “need” and trust that your desire to honor God and draw near to Him is pleasing to Him. Your daily choices either honor God or they honor self and the prince of this world. God finds joys in you! He longs to have your whole heart and mind and body, dedicated and devoted to Him alone. There is joy in knowing we are devoted to Him; there is strength and courage that comes, just as mysteriously, as we become less and He becomes more. There is a maturity, a deepening of our faith, an understanding of Him and His ways, a knowing of what it means to be His that far exceeds any temporal benefit one will ever find in doing yoga. May we trust that He will provide as we set the world aside.
by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections and Communications
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